Forensic Anthropology Research

The Forensic Anthropology Research Centre (FARC) at the University of Pretoria has a research focus on human variation in modern populations, particularly South Africans, for applications in orthodontics and medico-legal investigations, namely facial approximations, presumptive identifications, patterns of decomposition and interpretations of traumatic injury to bone. FARC researchers also have interests in the evolutionary history of South African fossil hominins as well as education in physical anthropology and expertise development in the discipline of forensic anthropology. Additionally, FARC provides education for undergraduate and postgraduate students, law enforcement, and the private sector in skeletal biology. FARC has a modern forensic anthropology laboratory which is equipped for the maceration/ processing and analysis of human remains. The centre conducts approximately 100 skeletal analyses, both biological profiles and bone trauma, per year for the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Forensic Pathology Services (FPS).

Collaborative research teams at FARC comprise of national and international researchers who have published on a variety of topics including: human variation (sex, ancestry and stature); age and sex estimation of South African children; facial approximations and reconstruction; periodontics and dental implants; patterns of decomposition in the South African Highveld; application of bone trauma to medicolegal investigations; and examination of the endocasts and postcranial remains of fossil hominins. We also provide forensic anthropology training human rights members of the Solidarity, Peace, Trust/Ukuthula Trust, which is a South African NGO focused on atrocities committed in Zimbabwe. The National Research Foundation (NRF), Erasmus+ and postgraduate bursaries from UP provide some of the funding for postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers. FARC offers at least two workshops a year covering topics, but not limited to, the application of bone trauma in medico-legal investigations; R-statistics; age estimation and ADBOU; and the use of 3D imaging in research.

The FARC encourages international exchange in our skeletal collections, in our forensic laboratory, and in interactions with our South African students. Exchange amongst peers is beneficial to all postgraduates students, as students exchange ideas and form friendships that provide a solid research network in the early part of their careers. International research collaboration improves the relevance of South African research, maintains international standards, and helps build sustainable expertise in the country. International mentors expose South African anthropologists to new research, workshops, lectures and practical experience that improve their understanding of physical anthropology and enable them to participate in advancing the discipline both nationally and internationally through collaborative research. Experienced-based postgraduate education creates excellent researchers who can continue to advance the discipline in their own countries.

Researchers within the FARC offer supervision and coursework in BSc Honours, MSc and PhD degrees and post-doctoral candidates in physical and forensic anthropology. The BSc Honours curriculum is specifically focused on theory and hands-on experience in forensic anthropology casework as well as a research component.  MSc and PhD degrees encompass the wide range of expertise available from staff and extraordinary lecturers/professors in physical anthropology within the FARC. 

FARC accepts a maximum of BSc honours students each year, many of whom continue to become MSc and PhD level researchers. Graduates from FARC continue on in academia, nationally and internationally, medical education, science communication, the South African Police Service (SAPS), and the International Commission for the Red Cross (ICRC).

Information on Skeletal Collections: Ms GC Krüger ([email protected])

Information on BSc Honours, MSc and PhD Applications: Ms Y Scholtz ([email protected])

Information on FARC (general) and research: Prof EN L’Abbé ([email protected])

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